By Nick Simonson
The heat of July means fast fishing, and with that comes added stress to all the things that help us catch fish. Line gets nicked by sharp teeth and structure, knots shift and slip, reels require maintenance and all sorts of other little things can get overlooked as fish after fish comes to boat. Making sure that these minor things are taken care of throughout a fishing trip and the rest of the season will help insure that when the big one bites, you’ll be ready.
1. Knot check. When presenting jigs for walleyes and panfish, or tubes for bass, knot placement is key. For the former, having the knot ride at the 12 o’clock position will help not only with presentation, but also with hookset. For the latter, especially knots made with superline, it is important that the knot stay at the top of the hook eye, as on the hookset, the line may slip through the small connection point which creates the eye. Check knot location before every cast for the best possible presentation and connection.
2. Line manager. Summer finds fish in nasty places, walleyes love rocky reefs, bass are holing up under docks and timber, and crappies are relating to concrete bridge pilings. All of these structures can test the integrity of even the strongest superlines, so after every couple of fish coming from these snaggy, craggy habitats, check the bottom foot or so of line for nicks and scrapes, and also for cuts coming from sharp teeth. If superline is frayed, or your mono starts to look or feel rough as you run it through your thumb and index finger, cut and retie.
3. Reel feel. Halfway through the open water season, your reel might need a second look as well. Apply the appropriate oil for your model to gears and handle connection points to continue smooth operation and check your drag to be certain all is in working order. Clean dust, sand and other tiny debris from the spool or around joints with a swab to prevent it from working its way into more sensitive areas of the reel and tighten up any loose screws on the bail or handle to assure a good cast and firm crank.
4. Net review. After a few outlying large fish, or a tangled-up crankbait, nets can start to show wear and stretches of mesh might have the occasional tear or missing braid, even if they were new at the beginning of the season. Inspect net mesh for areas where strands have failed and abnormal holes are present. If you have just one unplanned opening, that could cost you a fish down the road; patch it with a zip-tie for a temporary fix on the water, or if extensive damage is present, order a replacement.
5. Burn rubber. Summertime is crankbait time, and making the switch from the mesh net above to a rubber net will help ensure things go fast and smooth when a fish comes to boat. Crankbaits don’t tangle as easily in a rubber net, and those occasional pike can’t do their trademark gator-roll either. A rubber net allows for quick release of fish, and an even faster removal of multi-hooked lures lets you to get back to the action without delay.
6. Tackle it. Before your next trip, take quick stock of your tackle. Those hot baits that have paid off thus far should continue to work in the coming weeks, so re-stock as needed. Consider using models one size larger as baitfish grow in the back half of the season, or when targeting larger fish or those that have moved to deeper waters after the recent warm-up.
7. Stay sharp. Finally, take a half-hour of downtime to inspect the hooks on those favorite crankbaits and other lures you’ve been using. Look for blunted points and damage to trebles and sharpen them up with a hook hone, or replace them altogether with new ones. Even those baits fresh out of the box could use a quick sharpening before they hit the water, so give them a once-over as well.
The little things can often mean the difference between a fish on the line and a fish in the live well. Focus on these small factors for big success as we head into the back half of summer…in our outdoors.
(Featured Photo: As summer progresses, it is important to check on immediate items like line and hook condition, as well as things that need maintenance over the length of the season such as reels, nets and tackle supply, in order to convert a hot bite and nice fish, like this 26-inch walleye. Simonson Photo)